Austrian court convicts eight Iraqis for New Year’s Eve gang-rape of tourist
An Austrian court found eight Iraqi nationals guilty on Thursday of gang-raping a German tourist on New Year’s Eve more than a year ago and sentenced them to prison terms of between nine and 13 years.
Charges against a ninth suspect were dismissed, said a court statement. The victim – a 28-year old woman – was awarded €25,000 (US$26,000) in damages. Both sides were appealing the decision, the statement said. The Iraqis, aged between 22 and 48, came to Austria as migrants between May and December 2015. Five subsequently were given refugee status.
The prosecution charged that the eight exploited the fact that the victim had been drinking heavily on New Year’s Eve 2015 and was unable to defend herself.
The court heard testimony that four of the men took her to a Vienna apartment where they were joined by the others and that all took turns raping her. When she regained control, she found herself naked in a bed.
Prosecutor Karina Fehringer said the victim continues to suffer post-traumatic effects from the assault that required psychiatric treatment.
All but one of the defendants denied raping the woman while some acknowledged having what they described as voluntary sex with her. But Fehringer suggested that was impossible, describing the victim as being in defenceless in an “unconscious, shock-rigid” state.
Charges were dismissed against the 48-year old who said he had been asleep during the assaults.
Rape is punishable by a maximum 15-year prison term in Austria. Explaining the verdict and sentencing, Judge Petra Poschalko said that only two of the defendants had helped the court establish the facts and only one had confessed.
Fehringer had dismissed defence claims that the victim could have sent “false signals” that could have encouraged the men. Noting that the woman had been heavily intoxicated, Fehringer was quoted by the Austria Press Agency as asking: “Should we stick warnings on bottles: ‘excess consumption could be interpreted as agreement to have sex?’”
Defence lawyer Andreas Reichenbach observed that the crime was committed at around the same time as the high-profile sexual assaults in Cologne by groups of migrants and suggested the tough sentences might be an “additional message” that such actions will not be tolerated.